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Current as of 22/12/14 06:40AM NZST

Patrice Dougan

Patrice Dougan is a NZME. News Service reporter based in Auckland.

Passengers 'shot' with tiredness after Hawaii debacle

Lianne Killick, arriving with son Couper and husband Al, was angry at staff comments. Photo / Peter Meacham
Lianne Killick, arriving with son Couper and husband Al, was angry at staff comments. Photo / Peter Meacham

As weary passengers from Air New Zealand Flight NZ09 came though the arrival gates at Auckland Airport yesterday, more stories emerged of their 56-hour ordeal.

An elderly woman left standing for hours waiting for a taxi; a mother with a crying baby trying to find formula in the middle of the night; screaming children waiting in a hot air terminal with no air conditioning; and passengers who missed a funeral or the first day at a new job - most of the 227 passengers arrived yesterday afternoon, disgruntled and tired.

Complaints came freely about poor customer service and communication from the airline, and a lack of sympathy from staff on the ground after the aircraft was grounded following an indication failure.

The Boeing 767 was finally fixed yesterday morning, after an aborted takeoff on Sunday night.

Air NZ has apologised to passengers for their handling of the delay and offered $1000 in cash or Airpoints as compensation. But that did little to quell the anger and frustration - especially as many only heard of the offer through media.

Lianne Killick, who was travelling with her husband Al and 9-year-old son Couper, described it as "really insulting".

"Some of the comments made by staff over there were almost like, 'what are you complaining about, you're on a tropical [island]'," she said. "We were in 30C heat, no air conditioning and queue after queue after queue in an airport. We weren't on a beach having pina coladas."

Another passenger said his wife, who had recently received a breast cancer diagnosis, had missed surgery because of the "debacle".

"We have not slept or rested properly for days now and remain extremely angry and upset," he said. "I am astounded that Air New Zealand seemed completely unprepared for an eventuality such as this. I still refuse to accept that a multi-million dollar national carrier has never encountered a mechanical failure requiring they support their fare-paying customers in a foreign environment."

Greg Britt, from Christchurch, said it was a "pretty hard" three days for all passengers.

"People think we had an extra few days off in Hawaii, but there was no time off," he said, describing everyone as "shot" with tiredness. "Kids were screaming for hours. Elderly people were getting faint, it was just horrific really."

Air NZ's chief executive has admitted the airline "failed more than 200 customers".

In an internal memo to staff, Christopher Luxon said the carrier had "let them down and more importantly let ourselves down".

"As chief executive officer I am ultimately accountable for this," he said, vowing to oversee personally a detailed review of the delay.

Meanwhile, an Air NZ flight from Hong Kong was delayed for nearly 20 hours after also suffering an engineering issue. Flight NZ80, with 284 passengers, was due to arrive in Auckland at 4.20 this morning. APNZ

- APNZ

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